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At Columbia College Chicago, Lecturer’s Oscar-Nominated Film Leads To Courses Being Pulled

by Sally Blood

Last fall, shortly after Columbia College instructor Iymen Chehade showed the documentary 5 Broken Cameras in his course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he was summoned to a meeting with Steven Corey, chair of the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Science.

The Oscar-nominated film is a nominally Israeli work (an Israeli codirected, and it had some Israeli funding) with an entirely Palestinian point of view. Mostly filmed by its protagonist, Emad Burnat, it chronicles the life of his young West Bank family, along with six years of protests against Israel’s wall of separation, which had cut off part of the Palestinian village of Bil’in’s agricultural land. In the end—thanks to an Israeli court decision in the village’s favor and the increasing visibility of the protests—a portion of the wall is moved back toward the Israeli settlements that loom on the near horizon.

photoChehade recalls that in their meeting Corey informed him a student had complained of bias in his class, and had mentioned 5 Broken Cameras in particular. Chehade, who’s been a part-time faculty member at Columbia since 2007, says Corey also questioned his qualifications and told him that he should be “more balanced” in his teaching.

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